POLITICS

UN human rights body backs measures against Myanmar and investigations in Iran

Apr 4, 2024, 5:14 AM

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s leading human rights body agreed Thursday to measures aimed at putting pressure on Myanmar and Iran, whose governments have been accused of using violence against their own people.

The Human Rights Council, made up of 47 member countries, backed by consensus a measure that calls on governments to avoid exporting or selling jet fuel to Myanmar if they believe its ruling military junta might use the fuel to violate human rights in the war-wracked southeast Asian country.

It also urged a halt to the illegal transfer of weapons, munitions and other military equipment to Myanmar.

An independent expert commissioned by the council warned last month that Myanmar’s military government is escalating violence against civilians as it faces more setbacks on the battlefield against pro-democracy and ethnic armed groups.

The military seized power more than three years ago from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering widespread nonviolent opposition that was met with deadly force. The repression gave birth to armed resistance and embroiled the country in a civil war.

Advocacy group Amnesty International has repeatedly called out illicit shipments of fuel to Myanmar and in January pointed to shipping data that pointed to efforts to avoid sanctions in the aviation fuel supply chain. It said at least seven shipments of the fuel went to Myanmar last year, with direct links to a storage unit in Vietnam.

Vietnam, which currently holds one of the seats in the council, did not stand in the way of the council’s consensus.

“This is an important message from the U.N.’s main human rights body that business as usual is not acceptable when supplying jet fuel to those who use airstrikes to commit war crimes,” said Iniyan Ilango, Amnesty’s representative to the U.N. in Geneva.

He said it was “a good start” but the U.N. Security Council should impose a suspension of the direct and indirect shipments of aviation fuel to Myanmar, saying such a move would have an important impact on the ground because it would help prevent the military from continuing its airstrikes, “many of which have constituted war crimes.”

The decision on Myanmar came as the council was wrapping up its first session of the year, which began on Feb. 26, with action on more than 40 resolutions on issues as diverse as rights of the child, the environment and human rights, and prevention of genocide, and rights situations in council like Sudan, Belarus and North Korea.

One resolution expected to come up in Friday’s session finale calls on countries to stop sending weapons to Israel amid its military campaign in Gaza that has led to the killings of nearly 33,000 Palestinians in response to the murderous attacks in Israel by armed militants on Oct. 7.

In other action, the council voted 24-8, with 15 abstentions, to adopt a resolution to extend by a year investigations of human rights in Iran by two separate teams — one led by a “special rapporteur” looking into the overall rights situation, and another by a “fact-finding mission” focusing on rights violations related to protests since September 2022.

Members of the mission told the council last month that Iran’s government was responsible for “physical violence” that led to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in a hospital after her arrest by the country’s morality police over allegedly not wearing her hijab to the liking of the authorities.

Amini’s death sparked huge protests and a months-long security crackdown killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained.

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